Alabama gymnastics narrowly lost a quad meet on Friday night, finishing with a score of 196.175 to defeat Michigan and Bowling Green State, but falling one-tenth of a point behind Denver.
The Crimson Tide trailed by one tenth through three of four events. It scored the same on the floor exercise as Denver scored on the uneven bars (49.275) despite a 9.875 from senior Abby Armbrecht and 9.9s from sophomore Lexi Graber and freshman Shallon Olsen, which were the team’s highest individual scores so far this season.
“It was just so fun to watch Abby do what I thought was a flawless, beautiful routine,” coach Dana Duckworth said. “For Lexi to get out there and continue to get the double-pipe last pass and just show her firecracker personality, and then for Shallon to be in that position to take us home.”
The event was the second straight quad meet for the Crimson Tide after defeating Southeast Missouri, Northern Illinois and Temple at home last week.
Quad meets can make it more challenging for the gymnasts to concentrate because there’s twice as much action occurring at once, but the team has done well to block out distractions so far.
“We’re really good at what we call staying in the Bama Bubble,” Graber said. “We really don’t even notice what’s going on around us. Each routine is the same every week and we just get into that zone every time.”
Graber competed in all four events for the second straight meet and again won the all-around competition, improving last week’s score from 39.125 to 39.3.
She and Olsen also tied for the team lead in the vault (9.875), one week after Olsen won it with the same score in her first meet at Alabama. Olsen, the former Canadian Olympian, debuted in both the balance beam (9.675) and floor exercise.
“I really enjoy just performing in front of a whole crowd and just showing everything off,” Olsen said. “We’ve been working so hard in the gym and to finally go and show that to everyone here in Tuscaloosa is a really great feeling. … I had so much fun.”
Olsen wasn’t the only freshman who continued a solid start to her career. Emily Gaskins shared the team lead (9.85) in the uneven bars with senior Ari Guerra, one week after winning the event outright in her first meet. She also recorded a 9.8 in the vault.
Gaskins, who has already developed a reputation as a “beast,” according to junior Wynter Childers, did have a rare slip-up on the balance beam, scoring a 9.25.
The team had a hard time with the balance beam last week while still adjusting to a new rule concerning concentration pauses – the time a gymnast takes to regain her balance and focus. Judges now deduct one tenth of a point for a two-second pause and two tenths for a longer pause.
Duckworth said on Wednesday that she had been especially tough on the team during practice to ensure they moved their beam routines along.
“I was extremely happy with the way the ladies moved on that balance beam,” Duckworth said. “In my opinion I felt like those concentration pauses improved.”
The team improved its score in three of four events from a week ago, especially in the balance beam (47.7 to 48.675) and floor exercise (48.875 to 49.275). The most encouraging sign to Duckworth, however, is what happened after the slight struggles with the balance beam still lingered.
“Maybe the score isn’t indicative of really what we are all about, but after that first event I just thought the energy really built,” Duckworth said. “Even after beam took place they maintained their energy, they never stopped fighting and that’s a big deal.”